Babies spend more than half their days sleeping. On average, until they are 6 months, a baby will sleep about 15 hours each day, and still around 14 (sometimes more) by the time they are one year old. When I first began researching natural products for our first babe, my immediate thought went to the sleep routine. From the crib, mattress and sheets to even the pyjamas (another post coming soon on PJs!), I realized how important it was that these items were as natural as possible since our child would be spending the majority of his or her time sleeping.
So I started looking for eco-friendly crib mattresses that are truly non-toxic.
Eco-Friendly Crib Mattresses
What my research turned up in terms of crib mattresses and other items freaked me out a bit. It turns out that conventional crib mattresses are full of toxins. And since babies are spending an extensive amount of time, long-term, sleeping on their mattresses, this will be the most likely place of any toxic exposure. A recent study from the University of Texas found that crib mattresses “release significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), potentially harmful chemicals also found in household items such as cleaners and scented sprays.” New mattresses release four times as many. But while older or used mattresses may be better in that sense, the other concern is that older mattresses might contain other harmful chemicals such as flame retardants now banned in mattress foams.
Are you wondering what exactly are the dangerous VOCs in crib mattresses these days? Let me break it down a bit:
Polyurethane foam – This is often used as the filling material for crib mattresses. Polyurethane foam is made from petroleum and can contain other chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene and toluene, some of the worst VOC offenders.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – The majority of crib mattresses sold today have a vinyl, waterproof cover, normally made out of PVC. This well-known chemical is one of the most toxic and non-eco-friendly plastic out there today. It’s also a carcinogen. Yuck! And in order to make it soft enough to use on a mattress, it’s mixed with plasticizers like phthalates, which then off-gas into the air and onto our babies’ skin. No thanks.
Flame Retardants – To conform to strict fire-hazard regulations, all mattresses are coated in flame retardants so that they do not ignite easily in case of a fire. But these are also full of nasty chemicals which leach off into our skin and atmosphere and can cause all sorts of problems.
So, what are the alternatives? Where can you find an eco-friendly crib mattress? You’ve probably seen a lot of companies touting their “natural” or “eco-friendly” mattresses, but be careful. These terms are not really regulated and can mean a variety of things. For example, soybean foam is usually just polyurethane foam with only a small percentage of soybean mixed in with it. And then, since the foam is super flammable, guess what it’s coated in? Yep, flame retardants!
For a good alternative filling, look for mattresses filled with organic cotton or wool. Cotton will not release nasty toxins, nor is it easily flammable like polyurethane. Wool is also awesome because it is naturally fire-resistant as well as great at combating dust mites and moisture. As long as no allergies are present, it’s an amazing material for little ones. When it comes to ensuring the mattress is waterproof though, it is essential to have a great cover. Wool puddle pads are popular for this reason but sometimes will require two layers. A great alternative is a natural cover made out of food-grade polyethylene, which is considered the safest plastic and doesn’t contain any phthalates or other scary additives.
After doing some research, I’ve narrowed down a few of the best choices for the safest, non-toxic, eco-friendly crib mattresses out there today.
Naturepedic: An amazing company that makes all of its mattresses and products in the USA, Naturepedic is at the top of the line when it comes to baby mattresses. They use food-grade polyethylene for waterproof-purposes and dust mite proofing (there is also an option to buy a Naturepedic quilted mattress and add a waterproof pad). The mattresses are filled with organic cotton, so they do not contain any wool or latex (eliminating any potential allergic reactions). There is absolutely no polyurethane foam in their mattresses, and they pass all flammability standards without using any fire retardant chemicals or barriers. They are also Greenguard Select certified. Naturepedic also makes organic bassinet pads for bassinets or moses baskets. Naturepedic’s prices are fairly competitive especially for such a great, eco-friendly crib mattress, and I’ve often seen them on sale at different retailers. Their website has a handy tool that allows you to look for retailers near you.
Essentia: My Essentia is an amazing Canadian company offering natural latex foam mattresses, sold in both the USA and Canada. Their memory foam and natural latex is sourced from the sap of the Rubber tree, and they use organic essential oils as an alternative to petroleum in order to achieve the proper consistency in the memory foam. Every mattress is wrapped in unbleached organic cotton. The prices are a bit higher than Naturepedic’s, but they also sometimes have some good sales. Plus, I love that they are a smaller company based in Canada, and the quality is awesome.
Obasan: Another wonderful Canadian company, Obasan offers a couple of different eco-friendly crib mattresses. A coil mattress with organic wool padding on both sides of the spring, layers of organic wool, and a removable cover. Or the organic rubber crib mattress, which has a rubber core wrapped in organic cotton cheesecloth, with an outside removable cover of organic wool and cotton jersey. They’ve been making mattresses for over a quarter of a century so they know what they’re doing!
For information about eco-friendly cribs, check out my post on eco-friendly crib options.